Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Learning how to read Scripture from Scripture

There's a passage from St. Paul which I found quoted by St. Jerome in his commentary on the Psalms and Origen in his commentary on Genesis:

"And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things." (1 Corinthians 2:13)

The same passage is translated in very different ways in different translations, but this translation makes the most sense with the way they interpret it (Jerome and Origen seem pretty capable figuring out what it should say). Whenever they cite this passage, they go on to manifest the spiritual meaning of a text by looking at where the same sign is used elsewhere with the same spiritual significance. This is just one of the many ways that Scripture itself teaches us how to read Scripture. St. Augustine in his work On Christian Doctrine and his De Sermone Domini in Monte, goes through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. After the fear of the Lord, he names piety and describes it as the gift by which we receive the Sacred Scripture as truly inspired and submit ourselves in order to learn what the Spirit will teach us through it.

There is a place in one of the prophets that I always found somewhat comical, but it seems to teach that one must understand the literal meaning before the spiritual meaning.
He showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, "Amos, what do you see?" And I said, "A plumb line." Then the Lord said, "Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel..." (Amos 7:7-8)
and again
Thus the Lord God showed me: behold, a basket of summer fruit. And he said, "Amos, what do you see?" And I said, "A basket of summer fruit." Then the Lord said to me, "The end has come upon my people..." (Amos 8:1-2)

In both of these passages, the Lord shows the prophet Amos some object and asks him what it is. Amos responds with the literal answer right away: "a plumb line" or "a basket of fruit". And only when he has grasped what is manifest, does the Lord then show him what is hidden in it as in a sign. Now to compare spiritual things with spiritual... (I wasn't planning this, but I noticed it)

Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me, saying, "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet (i.e. plumb line) in the hand of Zerubbabel." (Zechariah 4:8-10)
Now it will be plenty of time before I understand the words of the prophets very well, but here we see the image of the plumb line being used, first in Amos and now in Zechariah. Before, the plumb line was in the hand of the Lord and here we see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. So it seems that a likeness is to be made between them. That Zerubbabel is a sign of Christ is indeed the Lord, the one who laid the foundation and will make things right. Looking around at this entire chapter from Zechariah, it looks like the much of it involves asking the prophet what he sees and him asking what it means, similar to what happened in Amos. When I return to this part of Scripture, I will have to go very slowly and hopefully I will make use of what the Fathers teach about these books.

Friday, May 24, 2013

St. Thomas' Division of Matthew

He starts with this major division:
  • Entrance of Christ's humanity into the world (1-2)
    • Generation (1)
    • Manifestation of his generation (2)
  • His course of life (3-20)
    • Preparation for teaching  (4)
      • Baptism
      • Temptation
    • Teaching itself (5-20)
      • Doctrine of Christ (5-12)
      • Power of this doctrine (13-16)
      • The end to which it leads (17-20)
  • His departure (21-28)
    • Certain preambles (21-25)
      • Provocation of persecutors (21-23)
        • Provoked by his glory (21)
        • Provoked by his knowledge  (22)
        • Provoked by his justice (23)
      • Strengthening of disciples (24)
      • Judgment (25, he starts talking about this in 24)
    • Passion of Christ (26-27)
      • Things done to him by the Jews (26)
      • Things done to him by the Gentiles (27)
    • Triumph of the Lord's Resurrection (28)
Just so as not to make the table too big, the further subdivision of the section on his teaching itself will be below:
  • Doctrine of Christ (5-12)
    • Doctrine for all (5-9)
      •  Proposed in words (5-7)
      • Confirmed through miracles (8-9)
        • By which men are freed from bodily evils (8)
        • And from spiritual evils (9)
    • Institution/instruction of ministers (10)
    • Refutation of adversaries (11-12)
  • Power of this Doctrine (13-16)
    • Shown in words (13)
    • Shown in deeds (14-16)
      • ostendit ad quos effectus se extendat per similitudinem factorum (14)
      • ostendit sufficientiam evangelicae doctrinae (15)
      • quomodo in puritate conservanda sit (16)
  • End to which it leads: future glory (17-20)
    • Demonstrated in Transfiguration (17)
    • Departure to future glory (18-20)
      • How one is to come to it (18-19)
        • The common way (18)
        • The way of perfection (19)
      • Reprehends those who seek it inordinately (20)
That's about as orderly as it gets. Eventually, I will have to take the time to read his commentary in full as it is still not clear to me all of those parts of that Gospel are about what he says it is. It would be worth the time it takes to reread the whole Gospel of Matthew with this division in mind.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Maurice Durufle, Quatre motets sur des thèmes grégoriens, Op. 10

I was reading about Gregorian chant the other day and fell upon this. It's not chant, but it is very nice.

  1. Ubi Caritas
  2. Tota Pulchra Es
  3. Tu Es Petrus
  4. Tantum Ergo

Gospel of Matthew, first attempt

Whereas for Genesis and Exodus, it was possible to make a division of the text based on the title, this text does not seem to allow for that. The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. Matthew. In my Greek edition, it just says Kata Matthaion. About a month or so ago I saw a threefold division, so I'll start with that and then consider further:
  • Christ entering the world
  • Christ in the world
  • Christ leaving the world
That's exhaustive. But what does it mean for him to "enter the world"? In some way he does this by his conception, another way by his birth, and then finally by his preaching. Since the gospel is the good news, perhaps the division should be where he begins to preach the gospel. And then when is he leaving the world? Certainly it is in his passion, where he has ceased to preach. Perhaps before that, when he celebrates the passover with his disciples. Perhaps even when he enters Jerusalem? But he enters and leaves several times. We'll take the passover as the division, since he stops his public preaching here. So it seems we can offer a division according to the title, Gospel, which is very close to the above division.
  • Christ preparing to preach the gospel (1-4, it is part way through 4 that he begins to preach, but the calling of the apostles at 4:18-22 seems to have more to do with preparation and then 4:23-25 is like a synopsis of the following chapters)
  • Christ preaching the gospel (5-25)
  • Christ no longer preaching, yet fulfilling the gospel (26-28)
Since the middle chunk is the largest and least familiar (the first and third chunks are mostly covered by the mysteries of the Rosary), that is the one that requires further division. First, a brief summary.
  • Sermon on the Mount (5-7)
  • Preaching down from the Mount (8-9)
  • Teaching the Twelve (10)
  • Preaching in the Cities (11-12)
  • Preaching in Parables (13)
  • The Leaven of the Pharisees? (14-16)
  • Transfiguration (17) 
  • More preaching... (18-20)
  • Into Jerusalem (21-23)
  • Mount of Olives (24-25)
So that is pretty rough to begin with, and a grouping of those sections isn't standing out. I've always found it difficult to grasp the Gospels as wholes. The beginning and the end of the most of the Gospels is what is often most distinct about them and those parts are easily recognized, but their middle sections cover many of the same events. Some of them are distinct and happen in a certain order (calling the Apostles, the Transfiguration, he begins to talk about his passion, he enters Jerusalem) but there are many events (teaching, healing) which seem as though they could go in any order without difficulty. In order to eventually grasp each of the Gospels in their entirety, I will start by reading some more about the Gospel of Matthew and the synoptics together.

Since what is described in the Book of Exodus is all a sign of what is described here, it is far more important to understand this book than Exodus. I have certainly read it more times than Exodus, yet it remains more difficult. All right, I'll try this again later.

Update: Already I'm finding some interesting things. Here's a quote from a Wikipedia footnote:
Robert L. Thomas Three views on the origins of the Synoptic Gospels 2002 p255, and p322 "Farnell 's third axiom notes, quoting Linnemann, that the reason for four independent Gospels stems from the legal principle of Deuteronomy 19:15b: "[O]n the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed."" 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Translation practice: Ecclesiastes and St. Jerome

The Book of Qohelet, 5:9-6:8

    The greedy man will not be filled with money, and who loves riches will not take fruit from them; therefore this is vanity. Where many are the resources, many also are those who eat them. And what does this profit the possessor, except that he sees riches with his eyes? Sleep is sweet to the worker, whether he sleeps a little or a lot; however abundance of riches does allow him to sleep.
    There is another base sickness which I have seen under the sun: riches wickedly kept by there owner. For they perish in the worst affliction: he begot a son who will be in the greatest poverty. Just as he came out naked from his mother's womb, so he will return, and he will take nothing with him from his labor. Utterly miserable is his sickness. How came he to return so? Therefore what profits it him to labor at the wind? He eats in darkness all the days of his life, both with many cares and with trouble and sorrow.
    And so this seemed good to me: that he eat whatever and drink, and enjoy delight from his labor which he labored under the sun, for the number of the days of his life which God has given him. And this is his part. And every man to whom God gave riches and substance, he has also granted power, that he may eat of them and enjoy his part and be gladdened out of his labor. This is a gift of God. For he will not remember the days of his life, by which God would take his heart by delights.
    There is another evil which I have seen under the sun, and the same happens often to men: A man to which God has given riches and substance and honor, and nothing is lacking to his life from those which he desires; yet God has not granted that he may eat from it, but a foreign man will devout it. This is vanity and a great misery.
    If he begot a hundred something children and lived many years and had many days of life, and his soul did not use the goods of his substance and lacked a funeral: about this I I pronounce that it would be better if he had been prematurely born. For he comes to nothing and proceeds to darkness and his name will be destroyed in oblivion. He does not see the sun and does not know the difference between good and evil. Even if he lived two thousand years but did not come to enjoy his goods, do not all hurry on to one place?
    All the labor of man is in his mouth, but his soul is not filled. Who has greater wisdom than a fool? And who is poor except he who heads to that place?

From the Commentary of St. Jerome the Priest on Ecclesiastes

    "Every man to which God has given riches and substance, he also conceded to him that he may eat from them and take is part and enjoy of his labor. This is a gift of God. For he will not remember the days of his life, for God occupies his heart in joy." For his comparison, who eats his resources in the darkness of cares and carries along his life's weariness to die, he says it is better to be him who enjoys present things. For in that there is actually a little delight in enjoying; but in the other there is only great anxiety. And he returns to causes, by which he is able to enjoy the gift of God in riches.  For "he will not remember the days of his life."
    God calls him in the joy of his heart: he will not be in sorrow, will not be vexed by knowledge, and he is charmed by joy and pleasure for the present. But better (as the Apostle says) is the spiritual food and spiritual drink given by the Lord in order to understand and see goodness in his every work, because we are able to contemplate good things by enormous labor and true study. And this is our part, that we rejoice in our study and labor. Which, although it is good, yet "until Christ manifests our life," it is not yet completely good.
    "Every labor of man is in his mouth, and his soul will not even be filled. For what is greater for a wise man than for a fool? What is for a poor man except to know that he goes against life?" Every thing which man works on in this world is consumed by the mouth, rubbed away by teeth and is given to be scattered by the wind. And when he is delighted a little in the throat, as long as he seems to be bestowed pleasure, so long is he contained in the throat.
    And after all this, his soul is not fill up with eating. Either he desires, that he may eat, that both the wise and poor man be unable to eat without food, he seeks nothing else except that he may be able to sustain the organ pipe of his little body and not perish by starvation; or that the soul take no usefulness from the refreshment of his body, and food for both the wise man and the fool is common and the poor man goes to that place where he examines his resources.
    However this is better to understand about the Ecclesiastic Man, who is learned in heavenly writings, that he has every labor "in his and mouth and his soul will not be filled," as long as desires to learn always. And in this he has more wisdom than the fool; because when he thinks himself to be a poor man (the poor man called "blessed" in the Gospel) he speeds on to comprehend those which are of life, and walkes about the strict and narrow way which leads to life, and is poor from evil works, and knows where to find Christ, who is life, and there remains.

Divisio Textus for Exodus

Given that the text is called Exodus, or the "going out", perhaps it would be fitting to divide the text according to the leavings that occur in it. A few come to mind right away: Moses going out from his mother at the beginning, Moses going out of Egypt near the beginning, (then after returning) Moses and all of the Israelites going out of Egypt (the central event), and then Moses going out from the people to see the Lord and going out from the Lord to teach and govern the people (this happens several times, but the most important one is probably when he encounters the idolatry of the people).
  • Israel in Egypt (1-14)
  • Israel out of Egypt (15-40)
All right, that's seems like the most significant divide. Often a story is characterized by the major conflict in it: these two parts have different conflicts. The first one is Pharaoh against Moses and the Lord, the second one is the chosen people against Moses and the Lord. Yet this conflict ends after the sorrow with the Golden Calf, so that may be the next place to make a division. Let's see... At chapter 19, "on the third new moon" is when the Israelites have reached the wilderness of Sinai. If my Hebrew Calendar reading skills are working correctly, that means it is 40 days between leaving Egypt and entering Sinai. Then later on in chapter 24 it says that "Moses was on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights" (v. 18). Then chapter 32 is the Calf incident. Then he goes back up the mountain and is there another 40 days and nights (34:28). At the end of that chapter he comes back down and the work on the tabernacle is begun, and finally erected at the beginning of the second year. So:
  • Exodus to Sinai: 40 days (15-18)
    • Moses and the people sing (15)
    • The Lord feeds the people with manna and quail (16)
    • The Lord gives water; war with Amalek (17)
    • Jethro counsels the institution of judges
  • First Ascent of Mount Sinai: 40 days (19-31)
    • Approach (19)
    • Spoken to all:
      • 10 Commandments (20:1-20)
    • Spoken to Moses:
      • Instructions about idolatry and an altar of earth (20:21-26)
      • More ordinances (21-23)
        • About slaves (21:1-11)
        • About civil matters, with punishments (21:12-22:19)
        • About religious matters, no punishments by men (22:20-23:33)
    • Moses, Aaron, and Aaron's sons worship (24:1-11)
    • Moses returns to the Lord alone (24:12-18)
      • Tabernacle instructions (25-31)
  • Golden Calf (32)
  • Second Ascent of Mount Sinai: 40 days (33-34)
    • Moses argues for the people and sees God (33)
    • God renews the covenant with Moses and gives laws pertaining to worship (34:1-28)
    • Moses returns, glowing from his encounter with the Lord (34:29-35)
  • Building the Tabernacle (35-40)
Before the first ascent there are all sorts of conflict: the people are hungry and thirsty and they wish they had never left Egypt in the first place. This conflict reaches its peak in Golden Calf, where they commit the greatest sin against God and 3000 of them are slain. This is the end of the conflict, for when Moses next asks something of the people for the Lord, they give him far more than is needed. Now to go back to the first part of Exodus, here is a basic division, just for the sake of completion:
  • The Exposition
    • Pharaoh oppresses the Hebrews (1)
    • Moses leaves Egypt (2)
    • Moses meets the Lord (3-4)
      • "I am who am."
  • The Execution
    • Moses and Pharaoh (5-10)
    • The institution of Passover (11-13)
    • The Exodus (14)
That division could probably use some further explanation, but it gives some immediate intelligibility to the text. If the Exodus (the chosen people leaving Egypt) is the central event in the book, then the text should be divided around that. "The Exposition" involves events necessary for that Exodus, yet one would not say it had in anyway begun, since Moses (the Lord's chosen instrument of the Exodus) is not in the place of oppression for most of it. Once Moses is back in Egypt, the Exodus is his sole concern. After chapter 10, Moses no longer speaks to Pharaoh, so that seemed like a fair place for the next division. Also, the Passover (which is the perpetual commemoration of the Exodus) is a significant enough event to merit its own place. To divide further, a natural spot would be when the plagues begin, which is also after a genealogy (the main feature which divides the Book of Genesis). There is a very brief genealogy of Moses in chapter 18 which precedes the third new moon, so it is possible that the genealogies here are also meant to divide.

To talk about the significance of this whole book in the light of Christ would take a long time. That the Exodus is the chief sign of our redemption from the Old Testament is emphasized by the current Easter Vigil liturgy which has the following instruction:
"At least three readings should beread from the Old Testament, both from the Law and from the Prophets, and their respective Responsorial Psalms should be sung. Never, moreover, should the reading of chapter 14 of Exodus with its canticle [Ex. 15] be omitted." (Roman Missal, 3rd Edition, p. 364)
There is plenty to be said about Christ being our Paschal (i.e. Passover) lamb and the first-born of all creation (Col. 1:15). There is the revelation of the Lord's name and the gift of the 10 commandments. It seems one could use the Book of Exodus in its entirety as a guide for putting together a rather complete Catechism which would cover the main aspects any Catechism needs to cover (Creed, Sacraments, Commandments, Prayer).

Perhaps some of the most obscure (and seemingly obsolete) parts are those concerning the ordination of the priests or construction of the tabernacle. This will seem the case to anyone not aware that everything in the Old Testament is a sign pointing to the New Covenant. The following page has articles from St. Thomas are great for at least the beginning of an explanation of such texts:
Article 4 for the tabernacle and Article 5 for the laws concerning the priesthood are the ones in particular that I have in mind. The bodies of those article give a general reason for why there are such commandments, but then in the replies to the objections there are many particular reasons (both literal and spiritual) for each individual precept and instruction.

The 10 commandments and the revelation of the Lord's name are each wonderful for many reasons. The 10 commandments lay out the principles of our entire moral life (practical philosophy) and the Lord's name teaches us about how entirely other God is from every other creature (speculative philosophy). To write on these extensively would be to write about the whole of philosophy.

The next division I write up will be the Gospel of Matthew and then, some time later, the Book of Leviticus.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

St. Thomas' Proem to the Psalms

Causes of the Book of Psalms
  • material: all of theology; and since all divinity is found in Christ, the matter of this book is Christ and his members
    • creation
    • governance
    • reparation, that is, Christ
    • glorification
  • form or mode: deprecative/laudative
    • He gives other modes used in Scripture: narrative, hortatory, dispute
  • end: prayer, i.e, the raising of man's mind to God (done in 4 ways)
    • admire the loftiness of his power
    • excellence of eternal beatitude
    • divine goodness and holiness
    • divine justice
  • agent/author: the Holy Spirit
He then makes other divisions and explanations: four ways in which this book is the word of glory, three ways of prophecy, three translations available. He lays down an important rule from St. Jerome, namely, that "events are to be expounded as prefiguring something about Christ or the Church." He says this after bringing up a council which rejected as heresy the position that these Psalms do not speak explicitly about Christ.

 St. Thomas then looks at 3 ways of dividing the Psalms.
  • The first is by dividing them into 70 and 80, numbers which come from 7 and 8. 7 signifies the present life, and 8 the next life. Again, 7 signifies the Old Law (for they observe the 7th day) and 8 signifies the New Law (which observes the 8th day)
  • The second is the five-book division discussed in the earlier post: he basically disregards it
  • The third is a threefold division into 50 psalms each, corresponding to the three states of the faithful: penance, justice, and eternal glory
  • The state of penance is signified by the tribulations suffered by David
    • Twofold attack and tribulation is prayed against
      • Attack against the entire people of God (Ps. 41-50)
      • Attack against the just man
        • By persecutors in temporal order
          • From special persons
            • Absalom, i.e., loved ones (Ps. 1-10)
            • Saul, i.e., outsiders (Ps. 11-20)
          • From the whole people (Ps. 21-30)
        • By those who live unjustly (Ps. 31-40)
 Well, that's the division he gives of the first 50. Thankfully, he wrote a commentary on the Psalms through 54, so we have his division of the next 50 as well (in his commentary on psalm 51). Even without that, it will take some time going through the psalms more carefully to see if what St. Thomas says corresponds well to the text. Certainly I had noticed a theme of tribulation. It always seemed like there was a just man (perhaps a sinner in need, but one who trusted God), some sort of enemy, and then God.

Before closing this, it is worth remembering the end of the Psalms: to raise the mind to God, to be united with him. Let us pray for this end.

A bonus text from St. Gregory the Great on Ezekiel, related to the heart: "the voice of psalmody if it is done with the intention of the heart, prepares the way for almighty God through it to the heart, so that he may pour in mysteries or the grace of compunction, by an intent soul or prophecy."

First Book of Psalms (a first look)

I've noticed a couple of times that the Psalms are divided into 5 books, so I did a little searching and found some account of this. The most interesting reason given is that each of the 5 books corresponds to the one of the books of the Pentateuch. This is an old Talmudic interpretation, and it would take some time considering both the Pentateuch and the book of Psalms to determine that completely. According to that scheme, the first 41 Psalms correspond to the book of Genesis. Since I have recently read both of these, I will look for likenesses.

(In case anyone actually reads this, let it be known that I am referring back to the Psalms and thinking this all out as I type it. I don't have an outline and this isn't supposed to be an essay. Just thinking out loud.)

Just looking at the first two Psalms, this view seems difficult to hold. Now these two Psalms are exceptional in other ways. Whereas almost every Psalms in the first book is ascribed to David (1, 2, 10, 33 are the only exception), these two fall outside of that. The content of the first psalm is fairly universal: blessed is the just man, the wicked will perish. Yet the just man is characterized by the fact that "his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." The law and the study of it is what makes him just, yet as of Genesis, no law has been given.

This reminds me of another interpretation of these two psalms I heard many years ago, namely, that they are a preface to all of the psalms. The Hebrew word for law is torah, which is another name for the Pentateuch itself. Perhaps by saying the blessed man delights in the law of the Lord, the Psalmist is exhorting his audience to delight in the Pentateuch by meditating upon it through the all of the Psalms that follow. Indeed the dichotomy of righteous and wicked, their deeds and their rewards, is fundamental from the very beginning. So that makes some sense of the place of the first psalm.

The second psalm seems unrelated to Genesis for a different reason. "The rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed." The anointed of the Lord seems to refer to the king here, perhaps David himself, but God has not yet anointed a king in Genesis or in any of the Pentateuch. Certainly the kings and the nations rage against God very early on: this is why he floods the earth, scatters the builders, and rains fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet none of those punished acted against the Lord's anointed, unless one consider the only Anointed One, the Christ. "You are my son, today I have begotten you." This psalm is cited throughout the New Testament about the one Lord Jesus Christ, and since He was in the beginning with God who creates all things, it is fitting that a psalm about Him occur early on.

Another surprise: I was looking for a verse I remembered reading, "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made," since this seems to refer to the Divine Word, and found it in psalm 33--another one of the few psalms here not attributed to David. This makes me want to turn to psalm 10...

Not so interesting as I would think. In the Greek numbering, Psalm 10 is joined to Psalm 9 and therefore does not require an additional heading to name its author. So it remains that 1, 2, and 33 are the only Psalms that remain without an author. Perhaps it is worth noting that tradition states that 33 is that age at which Christ died. Perhaps now it is time to look at the rest of the psalms more closely...

I'm not even sure what to look for. Perhaps it would be helpful just to look carefully at the structure of one psalm, so that I can then look for a pattern in the following ones (for they often seem very similar, except for a few choice lines). Let's take psalm 3 since I've been considering 1 and 2.

[0] A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.
[1] O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
[2] many are saying of me,
there is no help for him in God. [Selah]
[3] But thou, O LORD, art a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
[4] I cry aloud to the LORD,
and he answers me from his holy hill. [Selah]
[5] I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, for the LORD sustains me.
[6] I am not afraid of ten thousands of people
who have set themselves against me round about.
[7] Arise, O LORD!
Deliver me, O my God!
For thou dost smite all my enemies on the cheek,
thou dost break the teeth of the wicked.
[8] Deliverance belongs to the LORD;
thy blessing be upon thy people! [Selah]

The major division seems to be between verses 6 and 7. The first 6 verses are all statements, giving an account of what the situation is, and then verse 7 is a plea, "Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God!" and then reasons for doing this, ending with an optative, "thy blessing be upon thy people." As for the division of the first 6 verses, 1-2 are about the foes, 3 is about the Lord, 4-6 is about the one who is helped by the Lord. Is there an order here? Surely it is when one is in trouble that one most often turns to the Lord: so the he tells the Lord about his foes. Then he realizes who he is talking to: "Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me..." and then one can be at peace, knowing that the Lord holds all things in order.

That all being said, what does this have to do with Genesis? Not much as far as I can see. Even the heading says "Of David, when he fled from Absalom his son." That seems like an odd way to start a psalm that is somehow about what occurs in Genesis. Later I will have to read and see how St. Thomas divides the psalms, since he wrote commentaries on a decent chunk of them. Whoa, I just pulled up the proem, and that alone would deserve a whole post. I'm going to end this for now, but I'll post again about the Psalms and about St. Thomas' teaching on them. Here is the St. Thomas:

(Psalm 3 nabbed from http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/r/rsv/rsv-idx?type=DIV1&byte=2154323)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Translating Cyril

I've been trying to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in Latin for the last few months. The Psalms and Canticles are not too difficult since they use many of the same words and are often repeated. The most difficult section to read is the second reading in Office of Readings which is usually taken from the Church Fathers. Here's an attempt at translating one of them from the Latin (though he originally wrote in Greek). Some of the passages are awkwardly long and could probably be translated better:

From the Commentary of St. Cyril of Alexandria the bishop on the Gospel of John
(Book 10: PG 74, 434)

If I do not go away, the Paraclete will not come to you.

    All things were completed which were to be dispensed on the earth; but it was altogether necessary that we come to be partners and sharers of the nature of the divine Word, or, our lives left behind, transformed into something else and established for the newness of pious conversation; which otherwise than by participation of the Holy Spirit is not able to come to be.
    However the most oppurtune time for the mission of the Spirit, and its passing into us, that was following the departure of Christ our savior.
    For as long as Christ was still conversing with the faithful in the flesh, he was appearing to all men (as I suppose) a giver of good. In truth, when the time and necessity of ascending to the heavenly Father, how was it not necessary for him to be with his worshipers through the Spirit; and through faith to dwell in their hearts, that, having himself in us, we would declare with faith: "Abba, Father," and that we would easily hasten to every power, and thereafter we would be found unconquered against the traps of the devil and the insults of men, that we may have the one who is an omnipotent Spirit?
    For what transforms them into another certain condition, those in whom the Spirit will come to be and inhabit, and restores them unto the newness of life? Is it not easy to make clear to anyone with the witnesses from the old and new Scriptures?
    Of course, godlike Samuel, when he made words for Saul, saying: The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will turn into another man. However Blessed Paul says: But all of us, looking upon the glory of the Lord with uncovered face, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Spirit of the Lord. However the Lord is Spirit.
    Do you see that in a certain way the Spirit transforms those in whom it dwells into another image? For it easily transfers them from the sense of earthly things into looking only upon those which are in heaven, and from unwarlike timidity to strenuous and most generous power of soul. But there is no doubt that we are the disciples so affected and confirmed by the Spirit, that they may not be conquered by the assaults of persecutors, but tenaciously adhere to love in Christ.
    Therefore, true is what the Savior says: It is expedient for you that I should return to the heavens. For that time was for the descending of the Spirit.

Per se nota (I, 2, 1)


This article in St. Thomas is great as a brief consideration of what is self-evident and what is not. Here is just a list of all the claims made about what is per se notum:
  • Knowledge of the per se nota is in us naturally
  • Per se nota are known as soon as the terms in the propositions are known
    • e.g. When it is known what a whole is and what a part is, it is known that the whole is greater than the part
  • The principles of demonstration are per se nota
  • The existence of truth is per se notum
    • Whoever denies truth to be concedes its existence
    • For if truth is not, then it is true that it is not
  •  No one is able to think the opposite of what is per se notum
 All of those propositions are from the objections and the contrary. They serve to get one thinking about per se nota, to consider what they are and examples of them. Then the body gives the important distinction:
  •  Something is said to be per se notum in two ways
    • According to itself, but not with respect to us
    • According to itself, but with respect to us
  • Some proposition is per se nota when its predicate is included in the account of the subject
    • e.g. Man is an animal; this is self-evident because the predicate is in the account of the subject
  • If the what of the subject and predicate is know to all, then the proposition will be known to all
    • e.g. common terms which no one is ignorant of as being and non-being, whole and part, and like things (including like and unlike!)
  • If the what of the subject or the predicate is not known, then the proposition is in itself per se nota, but not to those ignorant of the terms
So this is all that he states about per se nota generally. He then applies what he's said to God. Even the replies to the objections have only to do with the application to God. Yet what he says about God still makes even clearer certain things about the per se nota. "God is" is a per se notum in itself since God is the same with his existence, yet not with respect to us since we don't know the essence of God. He then says that we need to prove it through what is more known to us. This shows that it is not intrinsically impossible to prove what is in itself per se notum, but then it raises a question: Is every true scientific proposition per se notum in itself? For example, if someone really knew the what of a triangle and the what of having angles equal to two rights, would they known that every triangle has its angles equal to two rights? What is important for this article is showing that God's existence is not self-evident in such a way that we know it without proof. The same is true about the triangle proposition, regardless of whether or not the predicate is somehow contained in the subject.

The first reply concedes that it is self-evident that God exists in a common way, insofar as our beatitude is known. Here is a the brief argument:
  • Man naturally desires beatitude
  • What is naturally desired by man is naturally known by him.
    • For one cannot desire what one does not know
  • Therefore, man naturally knows beatitude
A difficulty occurs to me. That last statement looks like a conclusion to me, but St. Thomas seems to think that it is per se notum, and insofar as it is per se notum, God is per se notum in a confused way (since he happens to be our beatitude). But if what makes something per se notum is having the statement known as soon as the subject and predicate are known, then we need only look at the terms. Beatitude is by definition what all men desire, therefore all men desire beatitude. Desire by definition follows upon apprehension or knowledge. Something can only be desired to the extent it is known, but if it is desired naturally then it must needs be known naturally. Therefore, man naturally knows beatitude. As long as one keeps the notion of beatitude very vague there, it is clearly self-evident.

The last reply helps reaffirm that knowledge of axioms are in a way about everything, but in a confused and indistinct way that asks for more. It is per se notum that the some common truth exists, but not that the first truth exists.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Finished Genesis

Currently in my attempt to read all of Scripture this summer, I am finished with Genesis, a fifth of the way through the Psalms, and halfway through the Gospel of St. Matthew. In order to keep in mind what I have read, it seems fruitful to spend some time summarizing what is contained.

I once heard it said that the genealogical lists divide the major parts of the book of Genesis, so we'll start with these:
  • Generations of the heavens and the earth (2:4)
  • Descendants of Cain (4:17)
  • Generations of Adam (5:1)
  • Generations of the sons of Noah (10:1)
  • Descendants of Shem (11:10)
  • Descendants of Nahor (22:20)
  • Sons of Abraham by Keturah (25:1)
  • Descendants of Ishmael (25:12)
  • Descendants of Isaac (25:19)
  • Sons of Jacob (35:22)
  • Descendants of Esau (36:1)
  • Descendants of Israel (46:8)
Those are the ones I could find by quickly looking back over the book. Given that the book is called "Genesis", it is probably not only divided according to births but its parts are each about beginnings.
  • Beginning of all creation (Chapter 1)
  • Beginning of man (2-11)
  • Beginning of the chosen people (12-36)
  • Beginning of their presence in Egypt (37-50)
There is some overlap in these, but they seem to be the main divisions. The reason for breaking between 11 and 12 is that Noah is the father of all men who survive the flood, whereas Abram is chosen from among these men and his descendants only make up a part of all peoples. There is a lengthy list of generations before 37 which indicates an important break. Israel has received his name, his descendants, and his promise. If one reads the Genesis as a prologue to the Exodus, one still needs to place the Israelites within Egypt so that they may make an Exodus from it. Once they whole family enters into Egypt, there is one more list of the names of those who are entering the land. What remains are the blessings of the sons of Israel and finally his funeral, which is attended by many of the Egyptians as well his sons.

Whereas the first 11 chapters and the last 14 chapters seem sufficiently graspable, the genesis of the chosen people is the lengthiest section in Genesis and therefore is worth further subdividing. The main persons here are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so this seems like the most natural division, yet Isaac has very little time compared to the other two. He primarily shows up in his relation either to his father or to his sons. I'll start with chapter summaries, just to recall what happened:
  • Abram leaves his kinsmen (12)
  • Abram separates from Lot (13)
  • Abram wars against kings to save Lot; encounter with Melchizedek (14)
  • The Lord speaks to Abram about land and descendants (15)
  • Abram goes into Hagar; Ishmael is born (16)
  • Abram is named Abraham; covenant; circumcision; a son by Sarah is promised (17)
  • Three men visit Abraham; he tried to intercede for Sodom and Gomorrah (18)
  • Two men visit Lot; Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed; Lot and his daughters (19)
  • Abraham and Abimelech (20)
  • Sarah gives birth to Isaac (21)
  • Abraham brings Isaac to Moriah (22)
  • Sarah dies; Abraham buys burial ground in Canaan (23)
  • A wife, Rebekah, is found for Isaac (24)
  • Abraham dies; generations of his descendants (important division); birth of Jacob and Esau (25)
  • The Lord makes promises to Isaac; Isaac and Abimelech; Isaac travels and digs wells (26)
  • Isaac blesses Jacob mistakenly (27)
  • Jacob is sent to find a wife; vision of the ladder (28)
  • Jacob marries Leah and Rachel; has 11 children (29-30:24)
  • Jacob leaves Laban (30:35-31:55)
  • Jacob anticipates Esau; wrestles with the angel and receives a name, Israel (32)
  • Jacob encounters Esau (33)
  • Jacob's sons plunder Shechem (34)
  • Jacob goes to Bethel; generations; Isaac dies (35)
Perhaps the broadest division would be:
  • Abraham and his sons (12-25)
  • Isaac and his sons (25-36)
The section starting in 37 is even titled "The history of the family of Jacob," as if until then the story of Isaac was still being completed in some way. This twofold division has each section begin with a genealogy and end with a death, so there is something complete about them. In order to further subdivide the sections, it may be necessary to attend more closely to journeys taken, in what direction and for what reason. Chapter 17 seems extremely important since it is the beginning of the covenant and of the sign of that covenant which will remain. Many important beginnings happen for Israel: his birth (25), his blessing (27), his children (29), his name (32). As said above, once all of these are established, it remains for his descendants to enter the land of Egypt, which happens through Joseph.

Reading all that happened to Joseph seems to point to the Christ in many ways. He is thrown into the Pit by his kinsman (as Christ is handed over by the Jews), he taken up from the Pit (as the resurrection; or perhaps one can see in this the Jews handing Christ to the Gentiles), he rises up to a high position which differs from Pharaoh's in name only (as the ascension, by which Christ sits at the right hand of the Father and and will judge), he gives benefits to his brethren although they do not know him (just as Christ leaves our sight so that he might give us the Spirit). The whole chronicle is also a sign of how Christ, betrayed by his kinsmen, will ultimately become a source of life to all the nations. Many signs of this sort exist throughout Genesis.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Genesis 27

One of my classmates wrote a thesis recently defending the polygamy of the ancient fathers. It is also difficult to account for what seem like lies in the Old Testament. St Thomas explains a few cases: the Hebrew midwives did indeed lie and that is why they received an earthly rather than a heavenly reward, and Abraham did not lie calling Sarah his sister on account of their common ancestors. But what about the following case?

"He said, Are you really my son Esau? He answered, I am." (Gen. 27:24)

My initial reading of this whole event is that Rebekah is encouraging a wrongful deception. Reading St. Louis De Montfort's account of this text led me to be open to the possibility that something more is going on. Still, even if a spiritual significance can be understood in this scenario, it is not clear that the literal events are themselves without blame. Isaac even says that Jacob came with guile, in contrast with the disciple under the tree in whom there was no guile. My most recent response to the above quote was to consider if there is some truth in him saying that he is Esau (as St Thomas interprets the words of Abraham). If by Esau is meant 'hairy one', then he had certainly made himself hairy; or if it means the one who will receive the blessings of the first born, then he may claim this. Yet names ordinarily signify some particular individual, in this case an individual who is not Jacob it seems.

So then I took it to be a lie, but then considered his benefits as temporal (as in the Hebrew midwife case). The blessing (27:27-29) consists in rain and fatness and grain and wine. It involves servants and dominion. All of these things immediately point to temporal benefits, although it not hard to see through to spiritual things. That Christ will descend from is truly is greatest reward, yet this is not mentioned here, except perhaps by the "dew of heaven and the fatness of earth," which points to Christ who descends from heaven yet is born of woman. And also the lordship which is given Jacob is a prefigure of Christ's perfect lordship over all creation. So no direct promise of such an heir, only earthly realities which themselves look forward to the one Utterance of the Father. I'll have to read the Fathers on this!

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The heart instructs

Continuing to read Scripture, I found another intriguing heart passage:

"I bless The Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me." -Psalm 16:7

What does this mean? First of all, how does the heart instruct? Second, how in the night? A passage of Philo I read recently came to mind as I was typing the verse: "Therefore they always retain an imperishable recollection of God, so that not even in their dreams is any other object ever presented to their eyes except the beauty of the divine virtues and of the divine powers. Therefore many persons speak in their sleep, divulging and publishing the celebrated doctrines of the sacred philosophy." (The Contemplative Life, 26) What a description! It almost sounds excessive, but the context of the verse is not opposed, "I keep the Lord always before me" (Ps. 16:8).

So before it was said that the heart seems to be the mind as ordered to action; here it seems to be a source of instruction. A small problem, one cannot teach oneself. A heart cannot teach itself. The verse before speaks about the Lord giving counsel, and then about the heart instructing. Perhaps it is because the heart is the part of man closest to God, that part through which God speaks to man. If that is so, then God's activity is named through the medium by which he reaches us. My heart instructs me in the night, God instructs me at all times. The night seems to be named so as to extend how God teaches. Since most things are done in the day, the night is named to show that he teaches even when men do not. Further, there is the spiritual meaning of the night. Night often refers to a time when a man cannot discern or rest in God's closeness. Even at this time, God instructs me. Perhaps that is why he says heart instead of God. In such a night, one cannot see that God is the one working in the heart.

This then reminds me of the Psalm that comes a bit later, "He made darkness his covering around him, his canopy thick clouds dark with water." (Ps. 18:11) So we cannot see Him who surround Himself with darkness, and yet He works as the following verses go on to say.

One more verse from the same area, just to go back to the heart. "They close their hearts to pity." (Ps. 17:10) So if the heart is where man is closest to God, then it is through the heart that we receive graces from God. So these men who close their hearts fail to receive the mercy/pity which God would bestow on them, whether it be God having mercy on them or giving them the virtue by which men are merciful. This recalls the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, although that does have additional difficulties.

The Philo came from here: http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/text/philo/book34.html

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Axiom in the Catechism

I was reviewing the Baltimore Catechism this evening and found a passage that would serve as a decent philosophy lesson:

"Q. 516. Why can there be only one true religion?
A. There can be only one true religion, because a thing cannot be false and true at the same time, and, therefore, all religions that contradict the teaching of the true Church must teach falsehood. If all religions in which men seek to serve God are equally good and true, why did Christ disturb the Jewish religion and the Apostles condemn heretics?"

This beautiful argument that there is only one true religion is just a consequence of the first of all axioms: a thing cannot be and not be at the same time. Even if one has disputes about where to find true religion, let there be no dispute that contradiction excludes the possibility of all religions being true.

One more point to notice. My last philosophy professor once said that if you are giving a speech to a crowd and need to convince them, do NOT use a demonstrative syllogism, rather use examples or signs. They are far weaker arguments, and yet more people are convinced by them. Thus the author gives the examples of Christ and the Apostles in their encounters with the Jews and heretics. Once I'm firmer in philosophy and logic, I will have to return to rhetoric (despite my skepticism), since possessing the truth is a prerequisite for sharing it but not all sufficient.

May God bless us.

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Self-evident principles?

Self-evident principles?
(Gleaned from ST I, q. 1)

Anything beyond what is sufficient is superfluous.
Nothing is known except the true.
Truth converts with being.
Men need to know their end so as to order their actions and intentions to it.
Man is ordered to God as to an end. (Self-evident to the wise?)
Diversity in the account of a knowable leads to a diversity of sciences.
Every science proceeds from principles either per se known or known by a higher science.
This divides the genus of sciences.
Science is not of singulars.
One is the science which is of one kind of subject.
The unity of powers and habits is from the unity of their object, with regard to the formal part.
The end of practical science is operation.
Every practical science is about things doable by men.
God, by the same science knows himself and those which he makes. (In general, is it the case that truths about God are per se known to the wise? I have in mind Boethius' example of the self-evident nature of incorporeal bodies not being in a place. I'm not sure if such truths belong in a list like this.)
Certitude pertains to the dignity of science.
One speculative science is more worthy than another on account of certitude and the dignity of the subject.
The natural light of human reason is able to err. (Many of the statements listed here are axioms, but this one seems a postulate, only known by experience. Unless one attends to the potency in the intellect itself: that may be sufficient.)
One practical science is more worthy than another if it is ordered to a higher end.
The ends of all the practical sciences are ordered to the end of the highest practical science.
The least knowledge about the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge about the lowest things. (This may require an argument, or at least an awareness of how much better higher things are than lower.)
It belongs to the wise to order and to judge.
In any science, one must posit the what it is of the subject.
All things determined in a science are comprehended under its subject.
The subject stands to the science as the object stands to the power or habit.
All our knowledge has its beginning from sense.
Representation is naturally delightful to men.

Besides several of the statements at the beginning, most of these have to with knowledge in some way. Does this necessarily remove it from the realm of postulates? Since everything insofar as it is is knowable, perhaps it is possible that there be axioms there. Certainly some of these have the predicate contained in the subject. Other do seem mere postulates (the last might even be capable of proof, if one attends to the purpose of representation). Now to share some of these with others to see how self-evident they are!

(Almost unrelated: I went bowling today and some of us were very bad. Sometimes when one would hit a few pins, it would be said "Something is better than nothing." That sounds like an axiom.)

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Write about contemplation

Write about contemplation

I've noticed a trend here and there of students who are fatigued by classes and study, who consequently come to despise the intellectual life to some degree and then want to turn elsewhere in order to find meaning. There could be many factors involved, but one seems to be the confusion of contemplation and study. They suggest active works, such as farming or making music, in lieu of what they consider the act of the contemplative life, but this seems due to a poor understanding of contemplation.

To write a decent on this subject will take some more time and study on my part, but I am confident that it is worth it. Contemplation is the highest operation of man and in it man comes closest to the beatitude that awaits him. The texts I want to draw on are mostly that from the end of Summa II-II, on the contemplative and active lives, also on religious life. After showing how awesome contemplation is (and the evidence is overwhelming), there is an article on whether religious orders can have study as their end. In that article he shows how study can be ordered to end of any religious life. This is helpful. Again, the beginning of his commentary on De Hebdomadibus compares contemplating to play. This is on account of its delight and ease, neither of which necessarily goes with study. Then I want to look at the Ethics, making sure of the Greek which I take to be erroneously translated as study. Perhaps it is worth spending time on the etymology of contemplate and study. Seeing how contemplation relates to the commandments and how it is more meritorious than the works of the active life is also to be considered.

The spiritual/intellectual life of the next generation may depend on this.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Outline of De ente, Chapters 5 and 6

Chapter 5: Further conclusions

About God
  • [1] Some philosophers say God does not have any essence
    • This is because his essence is not other than his existence
  • [1] God is not in a genus
    • Things in a genus have a common nature, but a diverse existence
    • Since God's nature and existence are the same, he cannot have a common nature and a diverse existence
    • Therefore, God is not in a genus
  • [2] God is existence only, but this does not mean he is the existence of any given thing
    • The existence of God is such that no addition can be made to it
    • The common existence, although it does not include any addition in its account, it also does not exclude it
    • Therefore, the existence of God is not the common existence
  • [3] God has all perfections

About creatures
  • [4] Intellectuals substances are finite and infinite in different ways
    • They are finite insofar as their existence is received and therefore limited by the capacity of their nature, "finite from above"
    • They are infinite insofar as they are not limited or cut off by being received into matter, "infinite from below"
  • [4] Individuation never ceases in the human soul
    • Individuation of the human soul depends on the body for its origin
    • Once the human soul begins to exist at all (that is, once it has "absolute existence"), it acquires its own individuated existence
    • This existence always remains individuated
  • [5] Genus, species, and difference are found in separated substances on account of their essence being other than their existence; yet the proper accidents belonging to them are unknown to us
  • [6-7] How the genus/species in separated substances differ from in composed substances
    • In composed substances
      • Genus is taken from what is material in the essence
      • Difference is taken from what is formal in the essence
    • In separated substances
      • Difference cannot be taken from part of the essence, but must be taken from the whole essence
      • Genus is also taken from the whole essence, but in a different way
      • Genus is taken from what is common among separated substances, namely, from their immateriality and what follows up it, such as intellectuality
      • Difference is taken from what is diverse in them, namely, from the various grades of perfection; not just any perfections, but ones belonging to the species themselves (just as animals have a higher grade of perfection than plants)
  • [8] Essence as found in composed things

Chapter 6: How essence exists in accidents
  • [1] How accidents exist, and how this differs from substance
    • Accidents do not have existence through themselves but only through a subject; this is unlike substances which do not exist in a subject
  • [1] Essence in accidental and substantial forms are alike
    • This is because they both have incomplete definitions
    • Their definitions are incomplete inasmuch as the definition of an accidental form requires the subject in which the accident exists, and the definition of a substantial form requires the matter in which it exists (just as the body is in the definition of the soul)
  • [2] Essence in accidental and substantial forms are unlike
    • The substantial form of itself does not have existence apart from that to which it comes (some matter), yet when it is conjoined to matter, an essence begins to be since the substantial form is part of a complete essence
    • The accidental form comes to a being which is already complete in itself; therefore, the accident does not cause the existence of the subsisting thing to which it comes, but gives it a "second existence" and only causes something which is accidentally one; nor is an accident part of a complete essence
  • [3] All accidents are caused by substances
    • That which is most of all and most truly in any genus is the cause of those that are it in that genus (e.g. fire is the cause of heat in other things)
    • Substance, most of all and most truly having essence, are first in the genus of being, and therefore are the cause of accidents which have being in a secondary way

[The rest of chapter 6 is omitted, since it will probably not be on the final.]